It wasn’t planned, it was just a business trip, but a morning ride created some stoke, some friends fuelled it and after a last minute single meal carb-up plans changed.
Day 1. My first 300.
The day dawned perfectly with mist in the valleys and bright sun at the peaks. It was going to be a good day for riding, like every other day.
My friends in the area were only riding later in the morning, Pro Hours and all, giving me the chance to do some exploring. 32c tyres and new dirt got the vibe going nicely, giving me that ‘All day long’ feeling you can only hope you’ll have when you have 250km planned.
The climbs were plentiful and the air was cool, both of these factors helping the metres pass quickly before I met with the crew. 90km deep I finally met with the guys, their fresh legs and chirps putting some energy into my tired thighs. To Sabie we went up Long Tom Pass’s more gradual side, the view from the top was promised to be worth the shots I was taking as Pro Watts were put down left and right.
Coffee and Pancakes when you are 6hrs in is something to behold, and a few Croissants as chasers don’t hurt either. With my stomach full, maybe too full, we headed out again. The heat of midday wasn’t holding back, and with the sun straight above us and 2hrs to the next water stop there was no place to hide as my legs tried to get going again after the break. At the top of the first long climb the guys were waiting ‘Come on Benky it’s all downhill from here’ was enough dishonesty to make me think that I wasn’t crazy.
Night came as I hit my 250km goal for the day, but I got a second wind and decided to do some local laps. The hour after dark riding alone with just my lights for company seemed like the right end to a good day. Bros, Bikes, Vert and a new PR of 300km. Time to eat.
Day 2. A double to go with the triple.
Day 2 legs are a thing, they take a few kms to disappear, on this day they took more than a few. White River to Sabie to Pilgrim’s Rest and back to Sabie solo is one way to get rid of them, what with it’s 3,000m of climbing in 125km. More pancakes please, with a side of pancakes.
Long Tom Pass is much steeper from the Sabie side. And coffee-stop legs are as much of a thing as Day 2 legs, but it was the last big climb of the adventure and that was enough to get over it. My eyes were blank for a bit and I had the acceleration of an Elephant but with only 1,000m left to do to complete the challenge motivation was as high as energy levels were low.
Having two Pros pace you home is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand time and kms pass quickly, on the other hand pain. They got me to 25km to go, then it was home time for them. I couldn’t have done the ride without the Lowveld Chain Gang, I don’t think I would have wanted to looking back. Bros and Bikes man.
Finishing felt amazing, not because of the distance or the vert but because of where it was done and who it was done with. Mates, new ones, helped me out when I needed them. The Lowveld dug deep into my heart, and its climbs deep into my legs. There are few places in this country that inspire the ‘Outside is Home’ feeling as much as the Lowveld does.
Hells 500 create these challenges to challenge us, to help us find our limits, but they do so much more than that and each one helps you find a little bit more of yourself. The dark moments help you grow, the beauty you see reminds you how great the world is, and the mates that you spend the sometimes endless hours with remind you that anything worth achieving is worth sharing.